Heading over the pass of the great vertical divide and the thermometer was telling me things that my brain just didn’t want to accept quite yet. Digital readouts of 18 and 20 degrees were met with scoffs or otherwise disbelief. I had seen the frosty situation reports of the high country but was still riding daily conditions in the lowland metro. This time of year there can easily be 20 degrees difference between the two. The recent high’s of 65 and lows of 40 in the valley seem downright tropical for Colorado in October. Now my butt is in the high country hoping my two-layer setup is going to handle the first few hours.
Rolling into the canyon I see heavy frost on the sagebrush and mist coming off the water like spirits of all the anglers that made this trek before me. The only thing saving the landscape from a blanket of snow right now is crystal clear blue sky.
“Oh things are starting out crisp.” I exclaim jumping out of the truck to grab an extra layer of neoprene waders knowing that trips will only get colder from here on out.
Hike in and start the search casting. First I throw directly in front of me and then to the sides before stepping into the water to reach the other shoreline. A decent fish hits the lure and I try to do the solo photo op thing. This is where I try to set the camera up on time delay and try to get the fish to cooperate for about 10 seconds. This may be a lot like diapering a baby after you both have had about 4 cups of coffee (analogies are something that I just come up with. Don’t question my parenting skills by what I write on my blog). Just as soon as I think things are going smooth…the fish flips its tail fin and gets the camera lens wet. This happens far more than I would like to admit.
(Above: First fin slapper on the bait and wait stretch. Photo op loses a few points with the water droplet on the lens. The fish probably chuckled a bit when I let it go.)
Work the first part of the stretch with ho-hum results. I start experimenting with colors and size of lure. Wandering around through the tackle box choices only lands me in no-luck city (Ideally I try not to work too much viable water without developing some sort of game plan before moving on). Eventually I have to stick with the brown trout patterns that are picking up bites here and there. The daylight clock is ticking. Hopefully I stumble on the flavor of the day later on.
“Lingered too long already in this stretch.” My lips murmur the words on frosty breath while eyeing the shoreline behind me for spot jumpers. “Stick and move.”
Get into the second stretch and sunlight is coming up over the mountains but not quite falling into the canyon surrounded by steep walls of rock, heavy pine or scraggly brush. Areas of lush grass where the water goes flat are rare here but they do exist. Trout prefer areas where they can feed in water that is not all fast and furious. Cast, cast, cast. Plink a little fish. Cash, cast, stick and move. Next rock I reach has a soft ripple behind it. The rock is actually submerged so you don’t exactly see it at first glance. The soft ripple isn’t obvious in the large section of flat water but too perfect to pass up. Cast a few yards upstream and pick my line of retrieve. As soon as the lure gets into the riffle I feel the heavy thump-thump of that tugalicious fish love.
Trout in rivers give a different fight than that of fish in lakes. River fish use the current of the water to add tension onto the line. At times they will use the current to burrow themselves more or less on the bottom making you work extra hard to pull them up. This fish used all of those tricks even though it is only 14 or 15 inches. Go for the photo op and what do you know? It starts flipping two seconds into it. At that point I just let it go along with a lot of other fish caught that day.
(Above: This fish will indeed be very huge one day if allowed to grow into its dot pattern. Sometimes you have to respect a fish for it would could it be.)
Sunlight finally graces the canyon. I hold my fingers in the rays to gather warmth rather than pulling out light gloves tucked in the top of my waders. This is the moment I had planned for. This is where I run the gold and red pattern knocking them dead. Things rarely go as I plan. No love on gold and flashy. Eventually I am falling on one pattern that is getting bites. Not consistent bites but the only thing that was getting any real action at the party. The rest of the day I go into full out “plink and go” mode with one color, one size on one rod.
“Run it top, middle and deep.” I mumble in a blur stepping to the next hole trying to solve the riddle of the water for big fish. “Cut through the front, run through the middle and drift long in the current. Wish I knew what they really wanted.”
(Above: Finally a fish willing to lay down and do the photo op. Some fish are ok with it but most trout don’t dig it whatsoever. Hurtin’ the fish aint worth it. Pick the right fish and play it gentle for the photo op.)
Once upon a time this run was somewhat of a secret to Frances and folks like Mountain Goat Keith. By noon there were several spot jumpers around me working for fish. Most worked the water in silence letting me pass by them with a quiet nod. One trail stumbler stops to zip up a few open pockets on what looks like a 3-Day backpack.
“What they biting on?” he asks with a crooked grin that is missing one tooth.
“Stick and move…” I reply making the slim corner on the steep trail. “That was the only thing that worked for me today.
My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.